Kwentong Barbero: Brownout, Elections and Nuclear Plants

Brownouts have been hitting the headlines recently. There are various speculations on what’s going on. There’s a couple of “theories” making the round. What’s common about these speculations are the brown outs are tied to the elections – that Arroyo is deliberately causing these brownouts so she can continue her stay in power. Pathetic eh? I dunno who’s more pathetic – if it were true – Arroyo or Filipinos, or both, oops.

The Extend Arroyo’s Term Power Through Conditioning Theory

Some say it’s a ruse to condition people about brownouts come voting time. The theory goes that by the time the elections take place, people would have gotten used to the brownouts. Thus, when brownouts take place, people will just give it a shrug. Meanwhile, the “players” will do their thing – switch ballots (assuming it is not automated or there is a need to switch to manual voting after an extended period time.

The Extend Arroyo’s Term Through LGU Bribery  Theory

Another theory is that these brownouts are a justification for the release of calamity funds to LGUs hardest hit by the brownouts. These LGUs with sizeable voting populations, will be grateful to Arroyo for the release of funds, and will therefore go for Arroyo.

My only problem with both scenarios is that… ahem… that assumes, Arroyo is running for President – she isn’t.

So, I want to propose another theory – it’s not about Arroyo, it’s all about the money. Here’s why I say that. Now, instead of providing you with a copy-and-paste of each article,  I will post snippets of some relevant articles, and its up to to follow the trail and come to your own conclusions. Deal?

Next, you can agree/disagree with my assumptions, which are the following:

1. There is existing capacity but the facilities are mismanaged. This is substantiated in Dean dela Paz’ blog Dim and Dimmer. He states:

In Luzon, there is no shortage of generating capacity.

The shortages are artificial.

The rotating brownouts are the result of unavoidable events and avoidable incompetence.

The unavoidable events are the boiler leaks of two base load facilities, repairs for a third, and low lake levels for a fourth.

One leak occurred in one of the two 300 megawatt units of the relatively state-of-the-art Masinloc plant.

The other, in one of the two 600 megawatt units of the Sual plant.

One unit of Calaca’s two 300 megawatt units necessitated repairs while the Kalayaan 684.6 megawatt hydroelectric plant bogged down due to low water heads.

Because the three thermal plants are configured with two units each, downtime in any one takes off line as much as 300 megawatts to 600 megawatts.

Avoidable incompetence, however, stems from government’s failure to coordinate the simultaneous maintenance of four other critical plants as Sual, Masinloc, Calaca, and Kalayaan were being repaired.

The problem lies with competent coordination.

Operated by independent power producers (IPP), the option to temporarily take offline lies with individual managers.

This does not mean energy officials cannot coordinate to avoid outages where the combined offline capacities remain within requisite reserves.

Where reserves should equal the largest unit employed within a grid, as a function of Sual’s configuration, Luzon’s is 600 megawatts.

Prior to Sual, Masinloc, Calaca, and Kalayaan’s repairs reserves were 812 megawatts.

Reserves vanished when the four went offline, falling deeper considering four more undergoing maintenance.

Never mind that 242 megawatts lay dormant off Navotas with 110 megawatts more in Subic.

In the Visayas, there is no shortage of generating capacity.

Two plants, each with 72 megawatts of dependable capacity, one coming online within two weeks albeit already partially dispatching, another 72 megawatts by May, plus a maximum of 400 megawatts from the recently balanced Leyte-Cebu submarine cable all transform the Cebu grid into a net electricity exporter allowing dispatches to Luzon.

By 2011, another 200 megawatts will come online.

As larger generating units operate, reserve requisites move up.

Visayan requisites spring from 82 to 100 megawatts.

This compels competent reserve management sorely absent in Luzon.

Against all these, Mindanao presents a short-term problem which raises specters of corruption given latent railroading for emergency powers that junk bidding safeguards.

Mindanao is unique.

Supply is concentrated in the north while demand is in the south.

Mindanao’s non-hydroelectric IPPs have an 88 percent average dependable capacity that accounts for only 43.67 percent of total when operating at rated levels.

The grid is 56.33 percent hydroelectric where inherent lower tariffs are disincentives for non-hydroelectric and peaking generators.

Mindanao also has a relatively expensive geothermal source due to its high front-end financial carry.

The El Nino temporarily reduced dependable hydroelectric capacities to 19.7 percent from their rated capacities with the Agus II unit lowest at 6.0 percent and Pulangui IV highest at 38 percent.

Because Agus is a cascading complex accounting for 76 percent of Mindanao’s hydroelectric supply its 10.48 percent average dependable capacity is significant when averages are weighted.

Mindanao’s 578 megawatt generating deficiency is partly-artificial and temporary.

It is the result of natural causes, myopia and incompetence.

There are dormant installed capacities, some in the wrong places.

When we add ludicrous solutions like emergency powers, we might likewise be adding corruption to the chemistry.

The El Nino phenomenon is predictable.

Officials knew it would hit way back in mid-2007. Perhaps lights at the energy department were dimmed a tad too low.

It only takes two to three months to tow the four Navotas 242 megawatt barges, moor and berth them in Davao.

There was enough time to sign transition supply contracts for the two privatized 100 megawatt barges in each of Nasipit, Agusan and Davao.

There was enough time to settle tax issues over the 35 megawatt facility in Iligan, dispatch peak power from a total of 56 megawatts from embedded private generators and dredge the silted Pulangui Lake thus upgrading 87 megawatts to at least 200 megawatts.

Sans the dredging, these total at least 533 megawatts currently feasible and enough to prevent 8 to 24 hour outages.

These solutions are workable right now.

These do not require corruption-prone emergency powers that offer monetary windfalls for middlemen.

Unfortunately, they require competent management from our officials — perhaps a tall order where illuminating cranial wattages are dim and getting even dimmer.

2. A shortage will have people clamoring for alternative sources of energy. The alternative energy sector will push for solar, wind, geothermal. The national government tends to look at the bigger picture and will go for nuclear power. The argument against solar and wind is that is not enough, going nuclear will be more cost-effective in the long term.

3. The Philippines has a dysfunctional experience in its nuclear power program activities – highlighted by the BNPP. As pointed in a study by Raymond Quilop, Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines (Diliman) Research fellow of the Office of Strategic and Special Studies, Armed Forces of the Philippines (OSS,AFP)

while the country may indeed need nuclear energy to support its industrialization and that technically, it may be possible to have nuclear power plants that can be safely operated in the country, their eventual operation and the Philippines’ use of nuclear energy will still depend on the public’s acceptance and approval of the construction, operation and use of nuclear power plants.

Among other things, CNN pointed out in 1986 that  THE $2.2 BILLION NUCLEAR FIASCO Westinghouse’s Philippine power plant is a management nightmare, and it isn’t even running. The Aquino government charges that the company bribed Ferdinand Marcos and did sloppy work. It wants restitution.

By Brian Dumaine REPORTER ASSOCIATE Brett Duval Fromson
September 1, 1986

(FORTUNE Magazine) – THE FIRST NUCLEAR power plant in the Philippines sits on a verdant bluff overlooking the South China Sea, just off the road where U.S. soldiers marched to their death under the bayonets of Japanese captors in 1942. The location on the Bataan peninsula seems sadly appropriate for a project that has become a bitter commercial tragedy. The somber, hulking plant has stood idle since construction crews finished work in early 1985. It is a $2.2-billion burden on an impoverished nation, running up interest charges of about $350,000 a day, and may never produce a watt of nuclear-generated electricity.

What has been done thus far? Trust ABS-CBN to spill the beans on governent matters where its owners are NOT involved.

A 2009 review of the nuclear power timeline shows that Cory Aquino’s administration was unsuccesful in getting restitution (incompetence?).

In 1995, “Westinghouse and the Ramos administration reach an out-of-court settlement where Westinghouse will pay the Philippine government $100 million. The payment will be paid in $40 million in cash and 2 160mwe combustion engines that were worth $30 million each.”

By April 2007, “the $1.06 million debt acquired from the construction of BNPP, is finally paid in full after 32 years. Re-opening the plant becomes an option as oil prices peak in the world market.”

4. Just because we had a bad experience with BNPP does not mean that we shouldn’t evaluate the benefits of nucear power generation done right. Apparently, the government shares the same view.

Lots of Manila-based  “scientists” don’t agree however.  Gerry Albert Corpuz wrote in his article that:

“Scientists in Manila have declared war against a government plan to revive the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was built by 1984 but never operated. They dismissed the completed but not yet fueled plant as a sleeping monster and a monument of corruption.


Bowing to public pressure, the government of former President Corazon Aquino decided to stop the project – but not the payment of loans, including the interest.

Now, almost 25 years later, Mark Cojuangco, representative of Pangasinan province, is seeking to revive the nuclear plant project. He has filed a bill in the House of Representatives seeking to allocate US$1 billion for its repair and rehabilitation. The legislative initiative to revive the project has stirred outrage among local scientists, churchgoers and local community members, including the fisher folk and farmers in the region where the mothballed nuclear power plant is located.

Professor Roland Simbulan of the University of the Philippines, former chairperson of the Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, cited a study by U.S. nuclear scientist Robert Pollard who had inspected the Bataan-based nuclear plant, to register his opposition against the revived nuclear project.

According to Simbulan, Pollard had studied the possible impact of the nuclear project and concluded that it was not safe, as it used an old design plagued with unresolved safety problems, which made it a potential hazard to public health and safety. The U.S. scientist had pursued research on the plant in the early 1980s after the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, where a core meltdown in a pressurized water reactor resulted in the release of radioactive krypton.

Renowned Philippines geologist Kelvin Rodolfo said, aside from being dangerous to the environment and human lives, the Philippines is not ready for this kind of nuclear power given the incapacity of the current government to handle nuclear waste; the waste from the nuclear plant will outlast the Philippine civilization.

In a forum hosted by the scientist group Agham and environmental groups under the Philippine Climate Change Alliance, Rodolfo stressed that it was arrogant to produce nuclear waste, which would last two or even three times longer than human history.

According to the Philippine-based geologist, the United States Geological Survey recorded at least six earthquakes in sites near Mt. Natib and the site where the plant is located. Rodolfo said uranium is not carbon-free as proponents of nuclear energy have been claiming.

He said fossil fuels are still used to mine, mill and process uranium before it reaches a reactor and every watt of electricity generated by a nuclear power plant makes around 30 percent as much carbon as a watt generated by burning fossil fuel, further complicating the problem of global warming.

Professor Giovanni Tapang, also a renowned scientist and physicist from the University of the Philippines, said the risks in getting the nuclear plant online would outweigh the benefits of the 620 megawatts of electricity it could generate.

According to Tapang, building geothermal, hydropower, natural gas, wind and solar power plants can address the projected shortage of 3,000 megawatts of electricity in 2012 without having to operate a nuclear plant. He said unused geothermal plants across the country could still generate 750 megawatts of electricity, which are risk free and cheaper sources of power for the 90 million Filipinos.

Okay, okay, I get it – BNPP is not safe, and it is expensive to rehabilitate. I know where this is going, build a new one then! Question is – should we? Honestly, I don’t know – not till I run the numbers – which is not the objective of this post all.

The government is finding ways to address the power crisis  (which never was, refer to Item #1). A possible solutions is nuclear energy.  An OFW blog  I came acroos listed sites bring considered for a new nuclear plant..(If someone has a link to a DoE document, it will be better). Ten 10 sites being considered as locations for nuclear power plants are: Aparri Cagayan, Morong Bataan, San Juan Batangas, Ternate Cavite, Burgos Quezon, Puerto Princesa Palawan, Siplay Negros Occidental, Cauayan Negros Orienta, Placon Point Siocon Zamboanga del Norte, Calauit Point Siocon Zamboanga del Norte.

Here’s where the interesting part begins:

2008 – January

Oil hits the US$100 mark in early January. In the same month, the IAEA sends out a team of experts to counsel the Philippines government on the “practicalities” of reviving BNPP. Energy secretary Angelo Reyes discloses that the government is “seriously studying” the commissioning of BNPP in June, saying the rehabilitation would cost around $800 million.

In the energy summit conference in Manila, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who at the time chaired the Senate committee on energy, says that her committee will not approve any legislation for nuclear-energy development and instead focus on a renewable energy bill.

2008 – July

The IAEA comes out with a staff report and makes 2 recommendations: 1) the BNPP’s technical status must be thoroughly evaluated by technical inspections and economic evaluations conducted by a committed group of nuclear power experts with experience in preservation management, and 2) general requirements for starting its nuclear power programme with stress on implementation of proper infrastructure, safety standards, and knowledge.

In the same month, Tarlac representative Mark Cojuangco files House Bill 4631, a bill that commissions and rehabilitates the BNPP through a budget of $1 billion.

2008 – November

The global financial crisis hits Wall Street and developed countries underwent recession.

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy discusses HB 4631 in late November.

2008 – December

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy approves HB 4631 and submits it to the Committee on Appropriations for second referral.

The Philippine government enters into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government-owned Korean Electric Power Company (KEPCO) to conduct a feasibility study on the condition of the mothballed BNPP.

2009 – March

By March, the House Committee of Appropriations approves HB4631 with amendments. The bill is then filed as HB6300 with Pampanga representative and energy committee chair Juan Miguel Arroyo as the principal author.

I have saved the best for last. Now, here’s a bone I can chew on with you all. A recent Korean daily mentions – Philippines eyeing local nuclear plant technology: Country expresses interest in Korean-made equipment

South Korea could squander a potential nuclear power plant deal with the Philippines worth several trillion won if it moves forward with the disposal of nuclear equipment it originally built for North Korea, according to a special envoy from the Philippines.

Mark O. Cojuangco, a congressman in the Philippines, said in an exclusive interview with the JoongAng Ilbo and JoongAng Daily on Tuesday that South Korea should hold off on selling a turbine generator and other equipment that were part of a scuttled project to develop two nuclear power plants for the North.

The Philippines, he said, needs only several months to come up with an organized plan to buy the equipment and parts in a block sale, which would net South Korea more money than unloading them piecemeal.

Cojuangco added that cementing a deal with the Philippines could also pave the way for South Korea to export more nuclear power plants to the Southeast Asian region.

The Korea Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) project to build two nuclear power plants for North Korea came to a halt in 2006 over political conflicts between the neighboring countries, leaving the facilities just 35 percent complete.

The South’s Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the owner of the equipment, is currently looking for individual bidders.

“I believe it’s a mistake for Kepco to sell KEDO [facilities] piece by piece and get a few dollars for it,” Cojuangco said during the interview. “[Kepco will get] maybe 10 cents on the dollar.”

Earlier Tuesday, Cojuangco delivered a letter from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to South Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy – which oversees Kepco and the country’s nuclear power plant businesses. The letter, addressed to President Lee Myung-bak, asks South Korea to sign a deal for the construction of two Korean Standardized Nuclear Plants (KSNPs) in the Philippines utilizing the equipment from the KEDO plants.

Citing the fact that the Philippines is holding a presidential election in May, Cojuangco said he hopes South Korea will give the Philippines until after the contest to craft a plan for the plants.

The Philippines, according to the congressman and his aide, could pay around 2.5 trillion won ($2.2 billion) for each of the plants to be built in the country. Given that the price tag of the remaining KEDO facilities is $1.1 billion, South Korea could earn more than 3 trillion won by selling them to the Philippines, they said.

The suspended KEDO nuclear reactors are an older model, which Kepco said is no longer easy to export. The agency said yesterday only two countries have showed interest so far in buying four supplementary parts worth only around $1.5 million. Kepco put up a total of 41 parts – including 33 key parts such as turbine generators – on the international market. Despite the fact that the facilities are old, the congressman said they would help the country save time and money over building a nuclear plant from scratch.

“When you build a new nuclear plant, 30 or 35 percent of the investment is hardware and equipment, but 65 to 70 percent of the investment is civil works, site development, building, power lines, manpower, etc.,” he said. “So if we could get the KEDO equipment already made, we can reduce costs and save a lot of time.”

He said the shortage of electricity is such a serious problem in the Philippines that it needs quick solutions. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has requested that the Philippines send a government-level delegation to South Korea to discuss the issue.

Several countries including Turkey and India have shown interest in buying South Korean nuclear power plants after the country inked a $40 billion deal in December with the United Arab Emirates.

By Moon Gwang-lip []

Pakibaba ng kilay ko, $1.2 billion dollars profit margin from each plant – that’s practically buy one plant for the price of two.

Why will Mark Cojuangco commit the Philippines to pay $2.2B for a plant that’s worth $1.1B.

Villaroyo? Sounds more like Cojuangco, Aquino, Arroyo… hmmmm… Or Aquiroyo? Cojuaroyo? Aquiangco? Whatever.

My spidey sense tells me – there’s more to this than meets the eye.

Ball is in MSM’s court.



  1. The thing I remember the most in the years from 1983 (when Noynoy’s daddy was assassinated) through 1986 (when Noynoy’s mommy was elected “President”) was our reliance on the FOREIGN PRESS for real news.


    Now in the face of a frenzy being mounted by the Forces of Primitivism to prop up the no-substance campaign of Noynoy Aquino the Third (literally!), guess what:

    We find ourselves again not being able to trust the Media to deliver to us real news and real insight into The Truth.

    Somehow the Media somehow always gravitate back into the bosom of the same Oligarchs which, to be fair, is what being a for profit enterprise is all about — hitching a ride on the money train. 😀

  2. Perhaps there’s the cost of taking the plant apart, shipping it, preparing the plant site, putting the plant together, etc.?

  3. Should an earthquake hit Japan, France or Korea and a nuclear meltdown follows and millions die, our anti-nuke groups will holler in glee, “see that? we were right!” Or if a big one hits Bataan and BNPP compound would crack wide open right in the middle sinking a few structures there, they will hold a victory party.

    If nothing of that sort would happen and BNPP would stay standing there intact, overrun by a forest in another hundred years, how will the generation of that period would see it? What a waste, they would say, a monument of our ancestors’ technophobia. They should blow that structure up and remove all traces.

    There are new technologies emerging on the horizon but how fast full development will arrive to make the nuclear option useless is the problem yet. Cold fusion, nanotech on solar panels, energy storage. Hey even mini nuclear plants.

    What are we doing? We’re not building any new plant. In a few years we’ll have the highest power rate in all of Asia. Cambodia and Vietnam will probably have their own nuclear plant and nobody will find any reason to set up shop here except our magnanimous nationalistic oligarchs.

  4. Persona non Grata · ·

    Ahem, Ricelander, Filipinos would rather starve to maintain our pristine environment.

    Look and listen, there is a rumored sizable quantity of oil beneath the Tanon Strait. Filipinos would rather save the habitat of bottled-nose dolphin than save their children from hunger.

    Don’t you love Filipinos? I call it SACRIFICE! Filipinos are heroic. Or, simply, pa-bilib, pa-cool effect.

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